Commentary Magazine


Posts For: November 4, 2013

More Pressure on Iran Can’t Wait

The panic from the administration and the foreign-policy establishment about the possibility that Congress will act to strengthen sanctions against Iran is hard to understand. Since even Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is running around the world saying that only sanctions and the threat of the use force on Israel’s part are the only things that brought Iran back to the negotiating table, it’s hard to fathom why making it even harder for Tehran to sell its oil and conduct business with those willing to brave the ire of the West will scare away them away. Yet, as we saw last week, the administration is so upset about the possibility that the Senate will follow up on House actions to tighten the sanctions that it not only sent in the heavy artillery to Capitol Hill to persuade them to back off but also tried to muscle Jewish groups into agreeing to a 60-day moratorium on advocacy for more pressure on Iran.

Those fears were echoed today in the New York Times. The paper doubled up on calls for engagement with Iran and a halt to pressure with an editorial and a curiously tone-deaf op-ed by diplomat Ryan Crocker that Michael Rubin already discussed. While it is worth taking apart the arguments against further sanctions, it is just as important, if not more so, to ponder why it is these voices are being raised now with such urgency. Though we are told that the goal is to further the cause of a diplomatic solution to the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program, the urgency with which they are being put forward must raise suspicions that what is really being sought is a way to set the table for a deal that will resolve nothing but make action to halt the threat impossible.

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The panic from the administration and the foreign-policy establishment about the possibility that Congress will act to strengthen sanctions against Iran is hard to understand. Since even Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is running around the world saying that only sanctions and the threat of the use force on Israel’s part are the only things that brought Iran back to the negotiating table, it’s hard to fathom why making it even harder for Tehran to sell its oil and conduct business with those willing to brave the ire of the West will scare away them away. Yet, as we saw last week, the administration is so upset about the possibility that the Senate will follow up on House actions to tighten the sanctions that it not only sent in the heavy artillery to Capitol Hill to persuade them to back off but also tried to muscle Jewish groups into agreeing to a 60-day moratorium on advocacy for more pressure on Iran.

Those fears were echoed today in the New York Times. The paper doubled up on calls for engagement with Iran and a halt to pressure with an editorial and a curiously tone-deaf op-ed by diplomat Ryan Crocker that Michael Rubin already discussed. While it is worth taking apart the arguments against further sanctions, it is just as important, if not more so, to ponder why it is these voices are being raised now with such urgency. Though we are told that the goal is to further the cause of a diplomatic solution to the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program, the urgency with which they are being put forward must raise suspicions that what is really being sought is a way to set the table for a deal that will resolve nothing but make action to halt the threat impossible.

The myth being put forward by the administration and its cheerleaders in the press is that more sanctions now would so offend the Iranians that they would halt the efforts toward diplomacy and weaken new President Hassan Rouhani in his efforts to convince the “hard-liners” in Tehran of the West’s goodwill. They assume, in the Times’s words, that Iran has now finally started to act in a “reasonable” manner and a continuation of the policies that brought them to the table would end all hope of diplomacy. But the absurdity of this position is so obvious that it is astonishing that anyone who has actually been paying attention to the last decade or more of diplomatic engagement with Iran could put it forward with a straight face.

First, the assumption that Rouhani’s charm offensive is anything more than atmospherics is based on nothing more than the wishes of many in the West that the dispute would simply go away. The Iranian behavior in the latest round of the revived P5+1 talks that is touted by the Times as such a revolutionary change was actually no different than their posture in previous meetings. They have not weakened their resolve to go on enriching uranium nor have they stepped down from a “red line” position in which they absolutely refuse to surrender their existing stockpile of nuclear fuel. The only thing that has changed is that many in the West seem to have become so entranced with Rouhani and the possibility of renewed diplomacy that they are seeking to weaken the West’s demands.

Even more to the point, if everyone takes it as a given that sanctions convinced the Iranians to give diplomacy another try—whether as part of a genuine desire for a negotiated settlement or because they want to use it, as they have in the past, to run out the clock further until they reach their nuclear goal—why would they turn and run if the West were to make it even more expensive for them to continue to defy the international community? If they are truly worried about the cost of sanctions—and the ayatollahs have been largely indifferent to the sufferings of the Iranian people up until this point—more of them can only give them a greater incentive to be forthcoming in the talks.

But the acclaim with which both the administration and outlets like the Times have greeted Iran’s minimal gestures can only fuel suspicions that what is at play here is not a search for the proper strategy to make diplomacy work but a desire to avoid confrontation with Tehran at all costs.

The administration has promised time and again that it would not allow Iran to go nuclear and that “no deal is better than a bad deal.” But it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that those pushing hard to weaken the West’s hand in these talks by eschewing the one tactic that has the ability to make the Iranians worry are more afraid of coming to grips with the truth about this problem than they are about the Islamist regime attaining nuclear capability. The sooner the Iranians are truly put to the test and made to answer whether they are willing to give up their nuclear program the better, and only more sanctions that create a genuine embargo of their oil trade will do that.

Even more importantly, the Times argues that if appeasement disguised as engagement fails, as it as time and again, more sanctions can be imposed next year or the year after. But it should be remembered that it took this administration nearly four years to agree to the sort of tough sanctions that finally brought the Iranians back to the table–and then only at the insistence of Congress after arguments against the measures put forward by both President Obama’s foreign-policy team and the Times. Now they are back at it again seeking to kick the can down the road another several months, or perhaps years.

But as we noted here last week, time is rapidly running out for the West or Israel to do something to avert the dire scenario by which Iran will attain the ability to threaten both Israel and Arab nations like Saudi Arabia and to back up their terrorist auxiliaries with a nuclear umbrella. After all these years of failed diplomacy, an argument for more delays is the moral equivalent of arguing for containment of a nuclear Iran rather than stopping it from happening.

The Senate must reject these voices of appeasement and act, as it did in 2011 and 2012, over the objections of the administration and pass more sanctions on Iran as soon as possible. A failure to do so will have incalculable consequences.

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It’s expensive to do what we do. To publish a magazine and a website that advocates for America and the West. To defend and promote the cause of the state of Israel. And to serve as a witness to anti-Semitism. COMMENTARY is driven by a mission, and the mission has stayed the same for more than 65 years. Please join us. Please help. We’re a non-profit, so your pledge will be tax-deductible. Charles Krauthammer calls us “indispensable.” If you’re already here, chances are you think so too. Please give by clicking here.

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Robert Gibbs’s Fuzzy Memory

It’s easy to imagine the Obama administration advisors and speechwriters who left the White House before the disastrous launch of ObamaCare grappling with a mix of guilt and relief as the bad press continues. Yet like the prophet Jonah aboard a ship whose crew realizes he has something to do with their current misfortune, some of the administration’s veterans haven’t gone quite far enough away from Nineveh.

Robert Gibbs, the president’s former press secretary and communications specialist, is getting the Jonah treatment. Gibbs is a regular on the political talk-show circuit, but the same reason for his status as a sought-after pundit–his access and his recent presence in the administration of a president still in office–is catching up with him. Today on Morning Joe, the hosts asked a fairly obvious question of Gibbs: doesn’t he have something to do with the sticker- and access-shock being experienced by millions of Americans who were told that if they liked their health-care plan and their doctor they could keep them? That led to the following exchange, via Dan Halper:

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It’s easy to imagine the Obama administration advisors and speechwriters who left the White House before the disastrous launch of ObamaCare grappling with a mix of guilt and relief as the bad press continues. Yet like the prophet Jonah aboard a ship whose crew realizes he has something to do with their current misfortune, some of the administration’s veterans haven’t gone quite far enough away from Nineveh.

Robert Gibbs, the president’s former press secretary and communications specialist, is getting the Jonah treatment. Gibbs is a regular on the political talk-show circuit, but the same reason for his status as a sought-after pundit–his access and his recent presence in the administration of a president still in office–is catching up with him. Today on Morning Joe, the hosts asked a fairly obvious question of Gibbs: doesn’t he have something to do with the sticker- and access-shock being experienced by millions of Americans who were told that if they liked their health-care plan and their doctor they could keep them? That led to the following exchange, via Dan Halper:

“Robert. you’re a communications guy and you were there,” said an MSNBC host this morning. “How could the president say, and there’s a clip we’ll show where he says it many, many, many, many — I remember it — ‘You can keep your plan.’ When you know that 5 percent of the people, and 5 percent is obviously a small part of the story and overall the impact if you believe in this law is better than what happens here, but it’s millions of people. You know what’s going to happen in the press. You know there’s going to be hardships for those people. Why would you let your president say that?”

“Well, look, I don’t recall significant discussions around some of the verbage (sic) on this, to be a hundred percent honest with you,” said Gibbs this morning.

“But do you agree it was a wrong move?”

“Oh, well, certainly,” said Gibbs. “I mean, I don’t think anybody dealing with this today finds what was said. Now, I do think some explanation in terms of the fact that policies that were in place at the point at which the president signed them were grandfathered in for this.”

Robert Gibbs doesn’t “recall significant discussions” about the words the president was very careful to use repeatedly? Perhaps the Wall Street Journal’s weekend piece on the ObamaCare messaging strategy would help refresh his memory:

When the question arose, Mr. Obama’s advisers decided that the assertion was fair, interviews with more than a dozen people involved in crafting and explaining the president’s health-care plan show.

But at times, there was second-guessing. At one point, aides discussed whether Mr. Obama might use more in-depth discussions, such as media interviews, to explain the nuances of the succinct line in his stump speeches, a former aide said. Officials worried, though, that delving into details such as the small number of people who might lose insurance could be confusing and would clutter the president’s message.

“You try to talk about health care in broad, intelligible points that cut through, and you inevitably lose some accuracy when you do that,” the former official said.

The former official added that in the midst of a hard-fought political debate “if you like your plan, you can probably keep it” isn’t a salable point.

No kidding. If you tried to sell ObamaCare honestly to the public, they wouldn’t buy it. If you just make up stuff you think they want to hear and pretend that’s the law you’re trying to pass, they may indeed support it–enough to get it through Congress, anyway. That’s the debate Obama’s advisors had: should the president tell the truth, or should he continue to mislead the country so he could get what he wanted?

We know which choice the president made. We don’t know exactly how his team of advisors felt individually about that choice. The story doesn’t reveal whether, for example, Robert Gibbs sided with the president in his belief that under no circumstances was he to risk his signature legislation on something so trifling as the truth.

But was Gibbs not privy to the debate? It’s possible, of course, which is what gives Gibbs plausible deniability–the phrase that has come to define the way this president and his administration approach governance. But there is still something off-putting about Gibbs criticizing the administration’s “wrong move,” as Mika Brzezinski termed it.

In fact, “wrong move” is a bit too kind. That phrase suggests a tactical mistake, not an intentional campaign to mislead the American public to pass legislation that will deprive a large segment of the public of their health care. Gibbs was part of the team that undertook that campaign, and there’s no reason his return to the private sector should get him a free pass on the ObamaCare disaster.

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More Obama Problems: Kerry’s Peace Push

When Secretary of State John Kerry pushed Israel and the Palestinian Authority to agree to nine months of peace talks earlier this year, his decision was greeted with widespread pessimism. Even those observers who can usually be counted upon to support the peace process were skeptical about his chances of success. After three months of low-profile talks, there is no sign that Kerry’s initiative is anything other than the fool’s errand that most serious observers believed it was in the first place. But the stalemate over basic issues that has led to the deadlock may be what Kerry was counting on after all. That’s the opinion of some in the Israeli opposition who are saying that the U.S. will intervene in the negotiations in January and present both sides with its own peace plan that it will try to impose on the parties.

According to Zehava Gal-on, the head of the left-wing Meretz Party, Palestinian and American sources are telling her that Kerry is preparing for a diplomatic master stroke in 2014 that will force Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and PA head Mahmoud Abbas to agree to a deal along lines more or less dictated by Washington. As the Times of Israel reports:

The Obama administration plans to achieve a diplomatic breakthrough at the beginning of 2014,” said Gal-on. “The Americans want to move from coordinating between the two sides to a phase of active intervention.”

According to Gal-on, whose left-wing Meretz party is in the opposition, the plan is based on the pre-1967 lines with agreed land swaps and will cover all of the core issues. …

The scheme is spread out over a gradual timetable, calls for the investment of billions of dollars in the Palestinian economy, and will include suggestion for a broader regional peace treaty based on the Arab Peace Initiative. The initiative, first proposed by the Arab League in 2002, calls for a comprehensive peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians together with normalization of ties between Israel and the Arab world. Central to the initiative was the complete withdrawal of Israel to its pre-1967 lines and the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

If true, it appears that those who accused Kerry of hubris in trying to succeed where every one of his predecessors had failed under circumstances far less propitious for peace than previous efforts were right. Even assuming that Israel will accept a deal along the problematic lines of the Arab League initiative, the American assumption that Abbas is strong enough to force the Palestinians to accept Israel’s legitimacy and end the conflict in spite of opposition from Hamas seems ludicrous. More than that, by putting pressure on Abbas to make a deal that he cannot agree to, no matter how much it gives him, Kerry may be setting in motion a train of events that could lead to more violence in 2014, not peace.

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When Secretary of State John Kerry pushed Israel and the Palestinian Authority to agree to nine months of peace talks earlier this year, his decision was greeted with widespread pessimism. Even those observers who can usually be counted upon to support the peace process were skeptical about his chances of success. After three months of low-profile talks, there is no sign that Kerry’s initiative is anything other than the fool’s errand that most serious observers believed it was in the first place. But the stalemate over basic issues that has led to the deadlock may be what Kerry was counting on after all. That’s the opinion of some in the Israeli opposition who are saying that the U.S. will intervene in the negotiations in January and present both sides with its own peace plan that it will try to impose on the parties.

According to Zehava Gal-on, the head of the left-wing Meretz Party, Palestinian and American sources are telling her that Kerry is preparing for a diplomatic master stroke in 2014 that will force Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and PA head Mahmoud Abbas to agree to a deal along lines more or less dictated by Washington. As the Times of Israel reports:

The Obama administration plans to achieve a diplomatic breakthrough at the beginning of 2014,” said Gal-on. “The Americans want to move from coordinating between the two sides to a phase of active intervention.”

According to Gal-on, whose left-wing Meretz party is in the opposition, the plan is based on the pre-1967 lines with agreed land swaps and will cover all of the core issues. …

The scheme is spread out over a gradual timetable, calls for the investment of billions of dollars in the Palestinian economy, and will include suggestion for a broader regional peace treaty based on the Arab Peace Initiative. The initiative, first proposed by the Arab League in 2002, calls for a comprehensive peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians together with normalization of ties between Israel and the Arab world. Central to the initiative was the complete withdrawal of Israel to its pre-1967 lines and the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

If true, it appears that those who accused Kerry of hubris in trying to succeed where every one of his predecessors had failed under circumstances far less propitious for peace than previous efforts were right. Even assuming that Israel will accept a deal along the problematic lines of the Arab League initiative, the American assumption that Abbas is strong enough to force the Palestinians to accept Israel’s legitimacy and end the conflict in spite of opposition from Hamas seems ludicrous. More than that, by putting pressure on Abbas to make a deal that he cannot agree to, no matter how much it gives him, Kerry may be setting in motion a train of events that could lead to more violence in 2014, not peace.

Those inclined to dismiss Gal-on’s prediction were probably dismayed by the reaction to her statement from Israel’s government. According to Haaretz, rather than deny the possibility of Kerry diving into the talks, Netanyahu told a meeting of Likud Knesset members today that Israel would consider any American proposal but would not give in to “external dictates.”

That the two sides are light years apart on basic issues is not exactly a secret. The Israelis want Abbas to agree to recognize Israel as a Jewish state as well as to renounce the right of return. Without that, they can have no confidence that another territorial retreat would permanently end the conflict. But not only is Abbas still talking about the refugees, he’s threatening to pull out of the talks to protest Israel building in areas that would almost certainly be included in the Jewish state in any territorial swap.

But, as many of those who warned Kerry he was making a mistake in the first place have pointed out, the balance of forces in Palestinian politics are such that Abbas is unlikely to consider signing any peace deal. Doing so would revive Hamas’s popularity and undermine his hold on the West Bank. In the past such logjams have inevitably led to new rounds of Palestinian violence as the political players in the West Bank and Gaza sought to reassert their political legitimacy by demonstrating hostility to Israel. So long as the rival parties govern the two regions, it’s hard to see a way out of the current impasse.

That is why a Kerry initiative would be so ill considered. Rather than offering the two sides in the talks a way out, what Kerry would be doing would be to back Abbas into a corner from which he might have no choice but to blow up the peace process and allow the terrorist factions within Fatah to compete with Hamas in the way they did during the second intifada.

As wiser and better diplomats who went before Kerry learned through hard experience, no outside party can force Israel and the Palestinians to make peace if both are not ready to end it. The Israelis have time and again proved they are ready to make painful sacrifices but cannot be expected to run the risk of the West Bank turning into another Gaza. That’s why any peace must mean the end of the conflict rather than merely its continuation on less advantageous terms for the Jewish state, as was the case with the Oslo Accords or its withdrawal from Gaza in 2005.

But the main obstacle remains a Palestinian political culture that is still unable to come to terms with the verdict of history about Israel’s creation. Rather than raising the ante with talks that were doomed to fail and will probably be followed by more violence, Kerry would have done better to have concentrated his efforts on bigger foreign-policy problems for the U.S.—such as Syria, Egypt, and the nuclear threat from Iran—than on trying to solve a problem that is incapable of solution.

President Obama has allowed Kerry a free hand in the Middle East since he took over at Foggy Bottom and has acted at times as if he considered the secretary’s efforts a sideshow that didn’t merit his attention. But if keeping Kerry occupied in a harmless effort to make peace was Obama’s intention, that strategy may be about to blow up in his face. The president needs to consider if he wants to have to deal with the fallout—both political and diplomatic—of the disaster that Kerry appears to be cooking up. With a second term that is already turning into an unending series of scandals and political catastrophes, Obama should think twice about allowing the secretary to tie him up in a no-win situation that could make an already dismal Middle East situation look a lot worse.

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Incitement and the Peace Process

The Palestinian Authority has long been criticized–and justifiably so–for claiming to favor co-existence with Israel while promulgating school textbooks that define all of the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean as belonging to the Palestinians and reading out the Jews from the history of the region altogether. But it seems that the PA textbooks aren’t radical enough for Hamas.

As Seth noted, the New York Times today reports that Hamas has just issued for use in the Gaza Strip new texts that claim that the Western Wall is exclusively Muslim property, that Haifa, Beersheba, and Acre—all within Israel’s 1948 boundaries—are Palestinian cities, and that deny any historical claim by the Jews on the land of Palestine because the ancient “sons of Israel are a nation which had been annihilated.” Naturally, the Hamas texts also elevate its own leaders, such as Ahmed Yassin, to status equivalent with Yasser Arafat, the hero of the competing Fatah.

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The Palestinian Authority has long been criticized–and justifiably so–for claiming to favor co-existence with Israel while promulgating school textbooks that define all of the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean as belonging to the Palestinians and reading out the Jews from the history of the region altogether. But it seems that the PA textbooks aren’t radical enough for Hamas.

As Seth noted, the New York Times today reports that Hamas has just issued for use in the Gaza Strip new texts that claim that the Western Wall is exclusively Muslim property, that Haifa, Beersheba, and Acre—all within Israel’s 1948 boundaries—are Palestinian cities, and that deny any historical claim by the Jews on the land of Palestine because the ancient “sons of Israel are a nation which had been annihilated.” Naturally, the Hamas texts also elevate its own leaders, such as Ahmed Yassin, to status equivalent with Yasser Arafat, the hero of the competing Fatah.

None of this should be terribly surprising to anyone who is the least bit familiar with Hamas or, for that matter, with its Fatah rivals. The only surprise is that, while a genocidal group of anti-Israel terrorists is in control of a significant portion of Palestinian territory, Secretary of State John Kerry has nevertheless elevated Israeli-Palestinian peace talks to the top of his agenda. It is a mystery which perhaps only Kerry can answer: What in the current configuration of power makes him optimistic that a breakthrough could be achieved now? Why on earth does he imagine he will succeed where all of his predecessors have failed? Given the fact that Hamas isn’t even part of the dialogue with Israel, and nor should it be, this looks like little more than wishful thinking.

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Will Confidence-Building Work with Iran?

Confidence-building is the bread-and-butter of diplomacy, or at least Western diplomacy. It has been at the heart of American proposals to advance the Middle East peace process, and it is front-and-center in U.S. proposals toward Iran in ongoing nuclear negotiations.

Seldom, however, do diplomats consider how the other side interprets confidence-building. Instead, diplomats simply project their own value system and cultural assumptions on their adversaries.

Fortunately, however, Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei and his aides have made clear exactly how they interpret confidence-building. I have elaborated in the current Foreign Military Studies OfficesOperational Environment Watch, a monthly publication which seeks to highlight from open sources current debates and events in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America that should be of strategic interest to the United States but which are not receiving attention in the Western press.

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Confidence-building is the bread-and-butter of diplomacy, or at least Western diplomacy. It has been at the heart of American proposals to advance the Middle East peace process, and it is front-and-center in U.S. proposals toward Iran in ongoing nuclear negotiations.

Seldom, however, do diplomats consider how the other side interprets confidence-building. Instead, diplomats simply project their own value system and cultural assumptions on their adversaries.

Fortunately, however, Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei and his aides have made clear exactly how they interpret confidence-building. I have elaborated in the current Foreign Military Studies OfficesOperational Environment Watch, a monthly publication which seeks to highlight from open sources current debates and events in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America that should be of strategic interest to the United States but which are not receiving attention in the Western press.

On October 17, Kayhan—a newspaper whose editor the supreme leader appoints and which therefore appears to conform with the supreme leader’s thinking—published a lengthy column examining the notion of confidence-building in diplomacy with the West:

Confidence building in international norms means consenting to movement within a mutually agreeable framework…. In fact, a person who says that he is building confidence is saying that he is moving toward a certain framework and rules that are acceptable to the other side. Hence, the new nuclear negotiation team of Iran is saying: In exchange for our movement toward building confidence, our rival, in other words, the West headed by the United States, must accept Iran’s right to enrichment. This, however, despite its chic appearance, is some sort of contradiction, because moving within the framework and rules accepted by them outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty means in fact for Iran to agree to give up its nuclear right. Why? Because, when our nuclear team speaks about the right of its country to enrichment in accordance with the standards of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the other side speaks of a superior legal rule and responds: This “indisputable right” has been taken away from you through the resolutions of the Security Council—including Resolution 1737—and your country has become an exception. In order to have those rights once again, you must act on your commitments and obligations in the resolutions and engage in negotiations with the IAEA after getting through the Security Council regarding this right…

So what is Iran to do? The article continues:

Our religious beliefs and experience and the imperialist nature of the domineering powers tell us that this confidence will never be gained unless, God forbid, our people become a dead people. The movement of Iran, however, on the course of power and strength, which requires confidence in the ability of the Iranian people, will certainly have results.

President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry may hope for conciliation, but the supreme leader sees any compromise as weakness. Only by pushing ahead and defying the West will Iran succeed, Khamenei believes. Obama and Kerry may think about diplomatic negotiations in the context of “How to Get to Yes” or something they learned in a university seminar room, but Khamenei sees the current talks as the diplomatic equivalent of an arm-wrestling match: Whoever is the strongest wins. Why, in such a context, Obama and Kerry seek to diminish the American negotiating position by easing sanctions is a question only they can answer but one which Congress should most certainly ask.

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Don’t Draw Firm Lessons From NJ and VA

The narrative of tomorrow’s off-year election seems already to be set. In New Jersey, Chris Christie will win a landslide that will confirm his status as a 2016 presidential contender and a potential centrist model for Republican victories in the future. But in Virginia’s gubernatorial race, the impending defeat of Ken Cuccinelli by veteran Democratic fundraiser Terry McAuliffe is supposed to teach the GOP the opposite lesson: that nominating a Tea Party conservative is a death wish that, if applied in other swing states, is a certain guarantee of future disaster.

On the surface, there’s really no arguing with the obvious lessons coming out of these two states. Christie’s ability to win the affection of a broad cross-section of voters in blue New Jersey has turned him from an unlikely underdog winner, when he first beat Jon Corzine for governor in 2009, to a political juggernaut. On the other hand, Cuccinelli has never been able to live down the extremist tag that Democrats labeled him with and it’s unlikely that even the last week’s ObamaCare fiasco will be enough to make that election a close call, let alone allow him to win. But like all generalizations about politics, those drawn from New Jersey and Virginia are as likely to mislead us as they are to provide insight. Those looking to draw firm conclusions about what the GOP should do in 2014, let alone in 2016, should be hesitant about drawing hard and fast rules from these races.

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The narrative of tomorrow’s off-year election seems already to be set. In New Jersey, Chris Christie will win a landslide that will confirm his status as a 2016 presidential contender and a potential centrist model for Republican victories in the future. But in Virginia’s gubernatorial race, the impending defeat of Ken Cuccinelli by veteran Democratic fundraiser Terry McAuliffe is supposed to teach the GOP the opposite lesson: that nominating a Tea Party conservative is a death wish that, if applied in other swing states, is a certain guarantee of future disaster.

On the surface, there’s really no arguing with the obvious lessons coming out of these two states. Christie’s ability to win the affection of a broad cross-section of voters in blue New Jersey has turned him from an unlikely underdog winner, when he first beat Jon Corzine for governor in 2009, to a political juggernaut. On the other hand, Cuccinelli has never been able to live down the extremist tag that Democrats labeled him with and it’s unlikely that even the last week’s ObamaCare fiasco will be enough to make that election a close call, let alone allow him to win. But like all generalizations about politics, those drawn from New Jersey and Virginia are as likely to mislead us as they are to provide insight. Those looking to draw firm conclusions about what the GOP should do in 2014, let alone in 2016, should be hesitant about drawing hard and fast rules from these races.

As I wrote yesterday, Christie believes his party should learn from what he’s accomplished in New Jersey. That he hopes that will convince Republicans to nominate him for president is also not a secret. And they would be crazy not to think seriously about how he has managed to govern as a conservative yet project an independent image. That provides him with a powerful argument to be the GOP standard-bearer in 2016. But anyone looking to duplicate Chris Christie’s success elsewhere needs to understand that he is a unique political character in a specific circumstance that isn’t likely to be found elsewhere.

It needs to be understood that despite all the talk about Christie’s centrism, much of that has more to do with atmospherics than political principles. New Jersey Democrats have been complaining for years that Christie is actually quite conservative, and they’re right. Far from being the poster child for “No Labels” centrism, Christie has been willing to work with Democrats in Trenton but mostly on his terms. If he has become the bête noire of GOP conservatives it’s been because of his embrace of President Obama after Hurricane Sandy last year and his attacks on House Republicans over their stalling on an aid bill, not because of any heresy on conservative principle. Both on social issues like abortion and Tea Party core interests like reducing the size of government and fighting the power of unions, Christie fits in well with the rest of his party.

He’s gotten away with it not because citizens of the Garden State think he’s a closet liberal but because of the appeal of his personality and governing style. It’s an open question as to whether that brusque approach will play as well on the national stage as it has in New Jersey. But suffice it to say that I doubt a Republican looking to have that success in a different sort of state could use the same playbook. Though pundits will search for one, there’s no point looking for another Christie.

As for Virginia, even conservatives have to concede that Cuccinelli has been more vulnerable to liberal attacks than a more vanilla Republican might have been. But those who see him as the 2013 version of Todd Akin are being unfair. He’s actually made no real gaffes that could be used to brand him as an extremist. But he has been on the receiving end of an almost unprecedented Democratic blitz that sought to demonize him. As Politico reported over the weekend, McAuliffe has been the beneficiary of a fundraising advantage that few Democrats not named Clinton or Obama have enjoyed in recent decades. Combined with a government shutdown that disproportionately affected Virginians, the scandal surrounding the GOP incumbent in Richmond, and the demographic shifts that have already converted the commonwealth from a Republican state to one that might better be described as Democrat-leaning rather than a swing state, doomed Cuccinelli. So while it’s fair for Republicans to speculate whether someone else might have done better, it’s difficult to argue that anyone else would have been in that much stronger a position.

The bottom line here is that political science is not science. The lessons of New Jersey and Virginia are not to be ignored but they are, like almost all electoral scenarios, specific to particular personalities and circumstances. Neither the victory in one state nor the likely defeat in the other can provide Republicans with a foolproof pattern for success.

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Ryan Crocker, Diplomacy, and the Iranian Elephant

Ryan Crocker has an op-ed in the New York Times today arguing that talking with Iran works. He bases his argument on his experience in Afghanistan, where in the days after 9/11, he took part in negotiations with Iran over that country’s fate. As Crocker writes:

The Iranians were constructive, pragmatic and focused, at one point they even produced an extremely valuable map showing the Taliban’s order of battle just before American military action began.  They were also strong proponents of taking action in Afghanistan. We met through the remaining months of 2001 in different locations, and Iranian-American agreement at the Bonn Conference on Afghanistan was central to establishing the Afghan Interim Authority, headed by Hamid Karzai, now the president of Afghanistan.

I continued to hold talks with the Iranians in Kabul when I was sent to reopen the United States Embassy there. We forged agreements on various security issues and coordinated approaches to reconstruction. And then, suddenly, it all came to an end when President George W. Bush gave his famous “Axis of Evil” speech in early 2002. The Iranian leadership concluded that in spite of their cooperation with the American war effort, the United States remained implacably hostile to the Islamic Republic.

Crocker is wrong. Never mind the fact that Iranian rhetoric toward the United States is ten times worse on a normal day. It’s important to consider what Crocker leaves out: In the months before President Bush’s “Axis of Evil” speech, Bush received word—intelligence about which Crocker was unaware—that Iran was creating a secret enrichment facility at Natanz. At the same time, after a hard-won ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Iran was busy seeking to smuggle in 50 tons of weaponry into the Gaza Strip. In effect, Crocker is like the blind man describing the elephant, willing to amplify the description of one aspect of Iranian behavior into wide-ranging conclusions, seemingly unaware that honest description of other parts of the beast suggested the opposite.

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Ryan Crocker has an op-ed in the New York Times today arguing that talking with Iran works. He bases his argument on his experience in Afghanistan, where in the days after 9/11, he took part in negotiations with Iran over that country’s fate. As Crocker writes:

The Iranians were constructive, pragmatic and focused, at one point they even produced an extremely valuable map showing the Taliban’s order of battle just before American military action began.  They were also strong proponents of taking action in Afghanistan. We met through the remaining months of 2001 in different locations, and Iranian-American agreement at the Bonn Conference on Afghanistan was central to establishing the Afghan Interim Authority, headed by Hamid Karzai, now the president of Afghanistan.

I continued to hold talks with the Iranians in Kabul when I was sent to reopen the United States Embassy there. We forged agreements on various security issues and coordinated approaches to reconstruction. And then, suddenly, it all came to an end when President George W. Bush gave his famous “Axis of Evil” speech in early 2002. The Iranian leadership concluded that in spite of their cooperation with the American war effort, the United States remained implacably hostile to the Islamic Republic.

Crocker is wrong. Never mind the fact that Iranian rhetoric toward the United States is ten times worse on a normal day. It’s important to consider what Crocker leaves out: In the months before President Bush’s “Axis of Evil” speech, Bush received word—intelligence about which Crocker was unaware—that Iran was creating a secret enrichment facility at Natanz. At the same time, after a hard-won ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Iran was busy seeking to smuggle in 50 tons of weaponry into the Gaza Strip. In effect, Crocker is like the blind man describing the elephant, willing to amplify the description of one aspect of Iranian behavior into wide-ranging conclusions, seemingly unaware that honest description of other parts of the beast suggested the opposite.

Nor does Crocker consider why Iran did cooperate in even a limited fashion in Afghanistan. Prior to 2001, Iran embraced a strategy of ethnic and Shiite solidarity in Afghanistan, in effect concentrating its efforts on the west, center, and north of the country. After 9/11, it decided it could exert its influence through the entirety of the country, in effect out-competing the United States.

Crocker cherry picks as well with regard to Iraq. He suggests that he held productive talks with Iran over Iraqi security in 2007, but never mentions that he had also held talks with Iran in 2003. The Iranians had at that time agreed to prevent the infiltration of the IRGC and IRGC-trained militias into Iraq. The Iranians—including Mohammad Javad Zarif, Crocker’s negotiating partner who is now Foreign Minister—lied. And as for 2007? In all likelihood, it was the surge which convinced Iran that their strategy would backfire rather than Crocker’s sweet words.

Crocker is an honorable man who has served well under the most difficult circumstances. But his policy judgment does not always match his reputation for wisdom. He has a long history of somewhat misguided faith in diplomacy. He has, after all, after retiring, testified in Congress in favor of talking to Hezbollah–a policy which would be counterproductive on any number of levels. Contrary to Crocker in the New York Times, talking does not always work. But for a diplomat to admit that would be to acknowledge that diplomacy is not the panacea so many diplomats which it to be.

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The Significance of Hamas’s New Textbooks

The Hamas-Fatah civil war’s impact on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process has long been a blind spot for reporters who seek to cover the conflict as a two-dimensional struggle between identifiable enemies. And so it is encouraging to see today’s highly-placed New York Times story on the new Hamas textbooks–a story which covers a second common blind spot for the media: Palestinian incitement and officially sanctioned anti-Semitism.

Today’s Times story explains that schools in Gaza are using new textbooks that, for the first time since Hamas’s takeover of the Gaza Strip, deviate from the Palestinian Authority’s standard texts “as part of a broader push to infuse the next generation with its militant ideology.” I’m not sure what is worse: that until now the official PA curriculum was anti-Semitic enough and sufficiently bloodthirsty for Hamas, or that Hamas is looking to ratchet up the hate even further. Either way, this should raise the alarm because in this (and just about every other) respect Gaza is not Vegas: What happens in Gaza does not stay in Gaza.

The significance of textbooks for propaganda purposes is not lost on the Times:

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The Hamas-Fatah civil war’s impact on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process has long been a blind spot for reporters who seek to cover the conflict as a two-dimensional struggle between identifiable enemies. And so it is encouraging to see today’s highly-placed New York Times story on the new Hamas textbooks–a story which covers a second common blind spot for the media: Palestinian incitement and officially sanctioned anti-Semitism.

Today’s Times story explains that schools in Gaza are using new textbooks that, for the first time since Hamas’s takeover of the Gaza Strip, deviate from the Palestinian Authority’s standard texts “as part of a broader push to infuse the next generation with its militant ideology.” I’m not sure what is worse: that until now the official PA curriculum was anti-Semitic enough and sufficiently bloodthirsty for Hamas, or that Hamas is looking to ratchet up the hate even further. Either way, this should raise the alarm because in this (and just about every other) respect Gaza is not Vegas: What happens in Gaza does not stay in Gaza.

The significance of textbooks for propaganda purposes is not lost on the Times:

“When a leader says something, not everyone is listening. But when we talk about textbooks, all the children, all of a particular peer group, will be exposed to a particular material,” he added. “This is the strongest card.”

What Gaza teenagers are reading in their 50-page hardcover texts this fall includes references to the Jewish Torah and Talmud as “fabricated,” and a description of Zionism as a racist movement whose goals include driving Arabs out of all of the area between the Nile in Africa and the Euphrates in Iraq, Syria and Turkey.

“Palestine,” in turn, is defined as a state for Muslims stretching from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. A list of Palestinian cities includes Haifa, Beersheba and Acre — all within Israel’s 1948 borders. And the books rebut Jewish historical claims to the territory by saying, “The Jews and the Zionist movement are not related to Israel, because the sons of Israel are a nation which had been annihilated.”

The reaction to stories like this is usually a mix of low expectations and the sunny search for a silver lining by noting that the situation is better in the West Bank, where Israel’s “peace partners” reside. And the response to the latter part of that reaction is, but for how much longer?

In fact, the gap between Hamas and Fatah/PA policy is misleading. That the gap doesn’t narrow often confuses outsiders into thinking there has been no overall, significant shift. But the truth is quite often the opposite. The Hamas-Fatah split manifests in competition over which side can be trusted to best lead the efforts to dismantle the Jewish state next door.

When Hamas increases its militancy in some way, it adversely affects the behavior of Mahmoud Abbas’s PA in at least one of two ways: it makes the PA’s incitement seem milder than it is by comparison, as if the PA has taken a step forward when in reality Hamas has taken a step back. And it encourages the PA to play catch-up by trying to prove its anti-Israel bona fides.

It’s not as though PA textbooks were models of coexistence. As the Jerusalem Post reported in 2011:

“There is generally a total denial of the existence of Israel – and if there is an Israeli presence it is usually extremely negative,” said Eldad Pardo, an IMPACT-SE board member, and head of the organization’s Palestinian textbook research group. “For the next generation, there is no education at all about collaboration and no information about the many collaborations that already exist between Israelis and Palestinians in environmental and other areas.”

In geography textbooks, Israel usually does not appear in maps of the Middle East, instead “Palestine” is shown to encompass Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Jaffa is also shown on maps of Palestine, but Tel Aviv and other predominantly Jewish cities, such as Ramat Gan, kibbutzim and moshavim, are not displayed. …

Other textbooks told students that “the rank of shahid stands above all ranks,” and included a Muslim hadith about the destruction of Jews by Muslims on the day of the resurrection, which also appears in the Hamas charter.

The Hamas deviation from the PA’s anti-Israel brainwashing means that for now, the two Palestinian territories will be teaching their children different versions of history. Both versions are false, and are fabricated in a spirit of hatred that is then instilled in Palestinian youth. But the teaching of parallel histories in the territories is not sustainable–certainly not for a stateless people seeking a unified national identity.

And so the danger in the new Hamas textbooks is not simply that Palestinians in Gaza will be poisoned with an even more malevolent form of Jew-hatred. It is that the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, recipient of American aid and global diplomatic legitimacy, will follow suit.

The new high school textbooks, we are told, “do not recognize modern Israel, or even mention the Oslo Peace Accords.” What will a “peace process” be like with a Palestinian polity raised to believe there was never any such thing? Looks like we’re about to find out.

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What Caused the Iran Hostage Crisis?

Today marks the 34th anniversary of the seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran by revolutionaries answering to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. The United States had never intended to break diplomatic relations with Iran. The embassy seizure occurred, after all, more than nine months after Khomeini’s return to Iran. During those nine months, diplomats actively sought to reach out to the new regime and to determine and report back on which way the revolutionary winds were blowing. There was a widespread belief that revolutionary fervor had nearly burned itself out, and that a revival of relations was inevitable. Indeed, Steven Erlanger, a young journalist who would rise to become The New York Times’s chief diplomatic correspondent, reported just a day before the embassy seizure arguing that while the revolution was not over, “the religious phase is drawing to a close.”

The hostage crisis was not inevitable, however. I examine the episode in detail in my new book about the history of American diplomacy with rogue regimes and terrorist groups. Rather, it was the direct result of forcing diplomacy upon a faction-ridden regime. Visiting Algiers on November 1, 1979, Carter National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski met Iranian Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan at a reception to celebrate Algerian independence day. Brzezinski told Bazargan that the United States was open to any relationship the Islamic Republic wanted. Brzezinski may have been well-meaning, but his initiative was a case study in how ill-timed diplomacy worsens relationships. Rather than grasping Brzezinski’s outstretched hand, Iranian revolutionaries decided to slap it away in order to reinforce their ideological credentials. The day after newspapers published a photograph of the Brzezinski-Bazargan handshake, outraged students at first protested Bazargan’s alleged betrayal of the revolution, and then decided to put an exclamation point on it by seizing the American Embassy.

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Today marks the 34th anniversary of the seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran by revolutionaries answering to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. The United States had never intended to break diplomatic relations with Iran. The embassy seizure occurred, after all, more than nine months after Khomeini’s return to Iran. During those nine months, diplomats actively sought to reach out to the new regime and to determine and report back on which way the revolutionary winds were blowing. There was a widespread belief that revolutionary fervor had nearly burned itself out, and that a revival of relations was inevitable. Indeed, Steven Erlanger, a young journalist who would rise to become The New York Times’s chief diplomatic correspondent, reported just a day before the embassy seizure arguing that while the revolution was not over, “the religious phase is drawing to a close.”

The hostage crisis was not inevitable, however. I examine the episode in detail in my new book about the history of American diplomacy with rogue regimes and terrorist groups. Rather, it was the direct result of forcing diplomacy upon a faction-ridden regime. Visiting Algiers on November 1, 1979, Carter National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski met Iranian Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan at a reception to celebrate Algerian independence day. Brzezinski told Bazargan that the United States was open to any relationship the Islamic Republic wanted. Brzezinski may have been well-meaning, but his initiative was a case study in how ill-timed diplomacy worsens relationships. Rather than grasping Brzezinski’s outstretched hand, Iranian revolutionaries decided to slap it away in order to reinforce their ideological credentials. The day after newspapers published a photograph of the Brzezinski-Bazargan handshake, outraged students at first protested Bazargan’s alleged betrayal of the revolution, and then decided to put an exclamation point on it by seizing the American Embassy.

Khomeini endorsed the move. “Our young people must foil these plots,” he declared. The embassy seizure was initially just supposed to last 48 hours, but a Carter national security council aide leaked word that military options had been taken off the table, and the hostage-takers, according to subsequent interviews, identified that as the moment when they decided to increase their demands and keep the embassy for the long haul.

On the 30th anniversary of the embassy seizure, Khamenei warned Obama not to place his hopes in political reformers. Reformists “can’t roll out the red carpet for the United States in our country. They should know this. The Iranian nation resists,” Khamenei declared. Factionalism inside Iran is no better today. While Khamenei’s commitment to President Hassan Rouhani is debatable—for every statement that seems to endorse Rouhani, there is one against him—the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) remains as hostile as ever to the United States. So too does Iran’s intelligence ministry, to which Rouhani is close and which has a history of terror sponsorship independent of the IRGC.

If the United States puts hope before change in Iran, however, it will in all likelihood get burned just as it was 34 years ago and as Khamenei has subsequently threatened. It is the job of the Iranian government to put the IRGC in the box if peace will really be possible. Khamenei shows no sign of doing so, or even wanting to do so. To rush headlong into diplomacy when the Islamic Republic is a house so divided risks a great deal. Had it not been for one rushed handshake just over 34 years ago, after all, the United States and Iran may not have been set down a path from which they have been unable to recover.

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Falling for Snowden’s Delusions

It scarcely seems possible, but Edward Snowden gets more odious by the day. It’s bad enough that he has leaked to the world top-secret details of highly sensitive and important NSA surveillance operations, thus doing more damage to American national security than a baker’s dozen of previous spies. What’s even more galling is that, while hiding in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, he has the nerve to position himself as a saintly whistle-blower who is striking a blow for truth, justice, and the American way.

The reality is precisely the opposite: He is empowering freedom’s enemies, from Beijing to Moscow to the western frontier region of Pakistan where al-Qaeda’s top leaders shelter, by revealing to them the secrets of how the NSA monitors them. At the same time he is spreading dissension and disunity in the Western alliance by revealing how the U.S. spies on its allies–but without saying anything about how those allies spy on us.

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It scarcely seems possible, but Edward Snowden gets more odious by the day. It’s bad enough that he has leaked to the world top-secret details of highly sensitive and important NSA surveillance operations, thus doing more damage to American national security than a baker’s dozen of previous spies. What’s even more galling is that, while hiding in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, he has the nerve to position himself as a saintly whistle-blower who is striking a blow for truth, justice, and the American way.

The reality is precisely the opposite: He is empowering freedom’s enemies, from Beijing to Moscow to the western frontier region of Pakistan where al-Qaeda’s top leaders shelter, by revealing to them the secrets of how the NSA monitors them. At the same time he is spreading dissension and disunity in the Western alliance by revealing how the U.S. spies on its allies–but without saying anything about how those allies spy on us.

It is hard not to gag while reading Snowden’s overblown “manifesto for truth” published in Der Spiegel. “Citizens have to fight suppression of information on matters of vital public importance,” he writes. “To tell the truth is not a crime.” True, but citizens don’t have the right to reveal on their own authority highly classified information that they have pledged to keep secret.

If he had wanted to be a whistleblower, Snowden should have notified the congressional intelligence committees of the activities he objected to. The fact that he did not do so is, of course, because there was nothing to blow the whistle on–there is no evidence that NSA has done anything it is not authorized to do or that it has acted in any way for ulterior personal or political motives.

However he tries to spin it, Snowden is a traitor to the United States who is under the effective control of the FSB. This is the successor agency to the KGB, and still one of the world’s most illiberal intelligence services–and one whose electronic surveillance activities rival those of the NSA and are far more malignant because they can result in the incarceration of political dissidents. It is sad to see all too many well-intentioned people in the West fall for Snowden’s self-serving delusions, which do so much to harm not only the security of the U.S. but also of allies such as Germany.

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The Pakistani Taliban After Mehsud

The CIA notched another kill on its score sheet in the war on terror. The latest terrorist kingpin to be hunted down and eliminated by the agency’s drones is Hakimullah Mehsud, leader of the TTP, or, as it more commonly known in the West, the Pakistani Taliban. Apparently several missiles–fired presumably by a Reaper drone–incinerated the car in which Mehsud was traveling on Friday through a tribal area of western Pakistan.

Considering how many deaths Mehsud was responsible for–he was a mass murderer thousands of times over–his demise can only be celebrated. But that celebration should be tempered by the knowledge that his predecessor, Baitullah Mehsud, was previously eliminated in a CIA drone strike in 2009 and his death, while a temporary hindrance, did little to hamper the group’s operations in the long run. There is no reason to think that Hakimullah’s elimination will do more than temporary damage to the Pakistani Taliban either. Indeed the group’s remaining leaders were already meeting on Saturday to choose a successor.

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The CIA notched another kill on its score sheet in the war on terror. The latest terrorist kingpin to be hunted down and eliminated by the agency’s drones is Hakimullah Mehsud, leader of the TTP, or, as it more commonly known in the West, the Pakistani Taliban. Apparently several missiles–fired presumably by a Reaper drone–incinerated the car in which Mehsud was traveling on Friday through a tribal area of western Pakistan.

Considering how many deaths Mehsud was responsible for–he was a mass murderer thousands of times over–his demise can only be celebrated. But that celebration should be tempered by the knowledge that his predecessor, Baitullah Mehsud, was previously eliminated in a CIA drone strike in 2009 and his death, while a temporary hindrance, did little to hamper the group’s operations in the long run. There is no reason to think that Hakimullah’s elimination will do more than temporary damage to the Pakistani Taliban either. Indeed the group’s remaining leaders were already meeting on Saturday to choose a successor.

The fact that the Pakistani Taliban is able to continue functioning after the loss of a top leader should be no surprise. Hezbollah, Hamas, al-Qaeda, and al-Qaeda in Iraq, among many other terror groups, have shown similar resilience. History suggests that while some insurgent groups can be badly wounded and even defeated by the elimination of a top leader–a recent example is the Shining Path in Peru which has been a shadow of its former self since the arrest of its founder, Abimail Buzman, in 1992–most such groups are popular enough and resilient enough that they can withstand such losses.

Indeed the assassination of a top leader can sometimes be a blessing in disguise because it can bring a stronger and more cunning leader forward. Hassan Nasrallah, for example, has been a devilishly effective leader for Hezbollah, helping the Iranian-backed terror organization to all but take over Lebanon and now spread its influence into Syria. He might never have gotten the chance to lead, however, if Israel hadn’t eliminated his predecessor, Abbas al-Musawi, in 1992.

That’s not an argument for stopping such targeted strikes, which can help to slow down a terror group at least temporarily and to keep it off balance. Rather it is an argument for developing a more comprehensive counterinsurgency strategy to defeat such organizations–something that Israel lacks in the case of Hamas and Hezbollah and that the U.S. lacks in the case of the Pakistani Taliban and other terror groups that shelter on Pakistan’s soil.

As I have argued many times in the past, drone strikes are necessary but insufficient. They should not be stopped, but nor should anyone be fooled into thinking they are a cure-all for a malignant insurgency such as the one in Pakistan (or Afghanistan or Iraq or Yemen or–choose your country) which is fed by pervasive government failure and official corruption.

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The Commentary Pledge Drive

For the next week, we’re going to be asking you—constantly—to make a tax-free donation to Commentary Inc., the non-profit institution that produces this website and COMMENTARY Magazine. Commentary Inc. earns about half the money it takes to bring you this blog 24/7 and 11 issues a year of one of the most distinguished and longest-surviving monthly magazines in American history. The other half we have to raise from generous supporters who admire what we do and believe in our mission. You’ll be hearing through the course of the week from writers and thinkers about what COMMENTARY means to them and why it deserves your support. I’ll just say this. COMMENTARY’s mission is four-fold. First, to defend America, the West, and their democratic institutions. Second, to speak for the “best that has been said and thought” in the West from literature to philosophy, from high culture to pop culture, from the Bible to the present day. Third, to defend and promote the cause of the state of  Israel. And fourth, to serve as a witness to the evil of anti-Semitism. 

So we wondered: Why should only PBS and NPR have a pledge drive? Conservatives, as Arthur Brooks has told us, are actually far more philanthropic than liberals. Prove him right! Please give, and give generously. You can donate by clicking here.

For the next week, we’re going to be asking you—constantly—to make a tax-free donation to Commentary Inc., the non-profit institution that produces this website and COMMENTARY Magazine. Commentary Inc. earns about half the money it takes to bring you this blog 24/7 and 11 issues a year of one of the most distinguished and longest-surviving monthly magazines in American history. The other half we have to raise from generous supporters who admire what we do and believe in our mission. You’ll be hearing through the course of the week from writers and thinkers about what COMMENTARY means to them and why it deserves your support. I’ll just say this. COMMENTARY’s mission is four-fold. First, to defend America, the West, and their democratic institutions. Second, to speak for the “best that has been said and thought” in the West from literature to philosophy, from high culture to pop culture, from the Bible to the present day. Third, to defend and promote the cause of the state of  Israel. And fourth, to serve as a witness to the evil of anti-Semitism. 

So we wondered: Why should only PBS and NPR have a pledge drive? Conservatives, as Arthur Brooks has told us, are actually far more philanthropic than liberals. Prove him right! Please give, and give generously. You can donate by clicking here.

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